Sunday, February 3, 2013

Signs of readiness.

Remember how I said we were encouraging Joe to potty train last May? 


Yeah, that went nowhere.

We have been encouraging Joe to wear undies or try sitting on the potty since he started talking (which was admittedly a bit late), so well over a year now. But most of the time, he adamantly refused to do either. And I don't know about other three-year-olds, but mine is amazingly stubborn. And emphatic. The conversation would go like this:

Me: "Joe, would you like to wear big boy undies? Look, these ones have Thomas on them! Yay!"
Joe: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NO UNDIES! I DON'T LIKE UNDIES!" (Dissolves into incoherent shrieking.)
Me: Sigh.

Other conversations went like this:

Me: "Joe, would you like to sit on the potty?
Joe: Incoherent shrieking.

This might have been sort of okay, except that Joe also resisted diaper changes with similar vehemence.  It has been a long year.

I'm not going to try to pretend that Steve and I were just totally cool with this. That we were just going with the flow, "trusting" that he would one day be ready, and letting him do this on his own time. That just wouldn't be true. The truth is that we have been pretty frustrated with Joe's resistance to the potty. Over the past year, we have tried: talking to Joe about it, reward systems, bribing, guilt-tripping, telling him that only babies use diapers and big boys use the potty, telling him that we were running out of diapers (he went into the back room and found some extras we had forgotten about), exposing him to other kids who use the potty, and just plain old begging. I'm ashamed to admit that in our frustration, we have occasionally gotten a little angry with him for his refusal to even try. I mean, you try changing a shrieking, kicking, violent three-year-old with a poopy diaper and see whether you can keep your cool. You held it together? Good for you. Okay, now do that for a whole year.

But it probably won't shock other parents of stubborn three-year-olds to hear that none of these tactics worked. Rewards and bribes? This kid is "untouchable, like Eliot Ness." Shaming? He's completely impervious. Anger? It turns out that incoherent shrieking wins all arguments.

(Thank goodness Joe's awesome preschool was 100% okay with Joe wearing a diaper to school. We love Joe's school so much.)

So we tried everything. And nothing worked. So we pretty much gave up and resigned ourselves to having to force-change Joe's diapers forever. I joked that when Joe turns 18, he would have to change his own damn diapers.

Joe hit three and a half years.

Suddenly, there were small indications of change. Measurable only with very sensitive instruments.

A couple months ago, Joe was upstairs, stalling bedtime, and asked for undies. Um, okay ... ? So we put him in undies, and prepared to wake up to a mess. But it didn't happen. He woke up dry. And then requested a diaper in the morning, which he proceeded to do his morning business into.

This became a pattern. We were baffled. What kid night trains before they day train? Our kid, apparently. But hey, undies! Without incoherent shrieking! And he was keeping them dry!

Then Joe tried the potty, once or twice. Successfully!

I calculated that at this rate, Joe would be potty trained in approximately forty million years.

He put a few stickers on his "potty chart." (This is the only reward system I retained. Potty attempts, successes, or good faith efforts  - as defined by me - get a sticker. Joe puts the sticker on his "chart" - see below. When the paper is full - as defined by me - Joe gets a toy. This is a highly formal system.)

But he still preferred diapers 98% of the time.

Nonetheless, after a couple of months, his chart filled up! We went to the toy store. Joe got a bag of marbles for his marble run and a little car.

The fire hydrant and fireman are my favorites.

The gears really started turning then. Potty equals sticker. Stickers equal toy!

He thought about this for a while.

Then last week, Steve and I were making dinner when Joe wandered into the bathroom, asked for help with the potty seat, closed the door, pulled down his drawers (we were peeking), and did his business, to the great astonishment of his parents. Then came into the kitchen and said, ever so casually, "I peed on the potty. I get two stickers."

You could have knocked us down with a feather. Our mouths were hanging open. I fell all over myself getting the kid his stickers.

And here's the really crazy part. Since that day last week, Joe has been pretty much dry. He just goes into the bathroom and does his thing like he's been doing this all his life. He has filled up a second chart in just a few days. I owe this kid a toy! I'm going to have to make some bigger charts ...

And so, at just a few months shy of four years, Joe just made up his mind to use the toilet, and he did it.

We are flabbergasted! And delighted! And cracking up about how very Joe it all is. He's still our stubborn, untouchable Joe who refuses to do anything unless he wants to do it. At that point, if he can fleece us for some toys, great. But he makes it so very clear that it will be on his own terms, not because we asked him to.

This child! He is so much his own person. Different than me. Different than his dad. So very self-possessed and determined. Patient. Impervious to parental or peer pressures. So very Joe.

All of my friends, who have been saying, "He'll do it when he's ready," for the past year, are now saying, "Oh ye of little faith! I told you so!"

I like being right about as much as the next person. And I generally don't love to be wrong. But I'm so, so tickled to be able to say, "Yes, you did! You were right."


  1. This gives me hope! my soon to be Three year old, sounds exactly!! like Joe. Al our attempts have failed, and so I'm just waiting till he gives us an indication, and you've given me hope he will!! I hope it soon though.. I can't imagine another 6 to 12 months of wrestling diaper changes...

    1. I hear that! But also, better late than never! My friends with kids who resisted potty training were telling me that four years is often a breakthrough time for even the most resistant kids. At first that seemed like a life sentence, but over time, it became a beacon of hope! Ha. It's funny how that works!

  2. oh man, my first two were not early potty trainers either. jude potty trained at 3 years and 4 mo and indigo at 3 years and 7 months. i never really pushed it (though i did try the occasional bribe... to no avail). and they never showed interest - but when they were ready, they potty trained overnight. no accidents, no asking them if they needed to use the toilet every 30 minutes. that just worked for us. indigo was so big that she made her own little 'poop closet' as we called it for #2. she needed privacy. haha! with both kids at that point i was also doing diapers with a baby, which made changing a 3 year old feel like changing an adult. we got really lucky with evie, who potty trained herself at 2. i was amazed. it was soooo awesome.
    congrats! it's a fabulous milestone!

    1. Yes! It's cracking us up that Joe went from never using the potty to using it perfectly, about 85-90% of the time, mostly independently (he also likes his privacy, and shuts the door - then comes out a few minutes later with no pants on, haha). It's a lot less hassle than we've seen with our friends whose kids pottylearned earlier - though I'm still a bit jealous of them!

  3. Yay! I would have totally freaked out and tried all of that and lots of yelling if I had to do the screaming wiggling poop change! I love how true to himself he is though. I once told my husband I was afraid that I might crush Jude's spirit and he reminded me that I wouldn't make a dent with a wrecking ball. Here's to little ones that beat to their own drum! And wear undies!

    1. Couldn't make a dent in it with a wrecking ball!! Oh my goodness, I love that! And it is so Joe, too! For better and worse, he's not the most sensitive child. We joke he's kind of like the "Honey Badger" ...

  4. I love the redback spider sticker. We have those spiders, they're nasty!
    Yay Joe. They are all such individuals... where does that come from? What makes them precisely them? Freaky little people.

    1. I have no idea!! This kid is so different than me. It will be so interesting to see what kind of personality Maggie has ...

  5. Yay for Joe! And for you!! I totally agree that kiddos will pretty much "do it themselves" when they are ready...I was fortunate enough not to have to wait too long for both of my kiddos...but it was really relatively painless and quick when it did happen...and I think it was just because they were ready! In their own time!! And, once they realize that undies are cool it's all uphill from there! :) Henry got Thomas undies for Christmas and he was as thrilled with that present as he was with his new fire engine and such!

    1. That's awesome! When I first had Joe, I really believed that I would be able to "mold" my child and influence them to a FAR greater degree than I actually have. I thought that if I did the "right things" he would naturally potty train early. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Seriously, parenting is such an exercise in humility, right?

  6. Well done, Joe!!!

    I hope that Joe's personal potty chart winds up in the hands of an alien civilization one day. I'd like to see them work out the relationship of the tyrannosaurus to the safety pilon.

    1. Hahahaha. I think both of our kids are going to leave the aliens with a lot of baffling material. :-)

  7. Yay for Joe! Your post encourages me as well as it sound just exactly like the way things have been going with Eli who will soon be 3 (except I can't complain about wrestling diaper changes. If Eli gets uncooperative all I have to do is walk away and having and unfastened diaper freaks him out so much he begs me to come back and finish.) I'm hoping we will find he makes the transition much like Joe did... But I hope we don't have to wait a whole year more as he won't be fitting the size 6 diapers much longer! I think I'd rather have a toddler that inconveniently to me knows his own mind and grows into an adolescent that isn't horribly influenced by peer pressure to do stupid things than to have parenting a bit easier now and then have all of my hair turn white by the time he's 14.

    1. Oh, one thing I've learned: They make bigger diapers (or pull-ups). We are not alone in our struggles, my friend, as evidenced by the diaper aisle at Target.

      We have made the same observation about Joe. In the end, it will be a good thing to have a teenager and grown son who is "untouchable, like Eliot Ness." It does make for a tough toddler, but it is a very good personality trait overall.

  8. They do it when they are ready.
    I have not 'encouraged' any of mine and I get no wet beds or tantrum puddles.
    Everyone has to use a lavatory evenually.
    Go Joe!

    1. So true! All of my friends kept saying, "Everyone potty trains eventually. No one goes to junior high school in diapers." But I admit - I doubted! It's funny how difficult it is to see beyond the current struggles. But y'all were so right, of course.

  9. Ugh! The spam!! I'm going to have to go back to word verification, I think. Grrrrr.

    Anyway, thank you all for your encouragement! Of course we wished Joe might be "ready" a while ago, but they do these things in their own time, don't they? And at this point, having resigned myself to changing diapers for the next 15 years, I'll take it! (First, you must make peace with your fate; then things may change, right?)


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